Questions over how man on watchlist could own gun licence

A driver deliberately rammed his car into a police van as it drove down Paris' Champs Elysees and was probably killed, police said, adding that no officers or bystanders were injured and the situation was under control.
A police team inspecting Adam Djaziri's burnt car on the Champs-Elysees in Paris on Monday. The car had been loaded with two gas canisters, and two handguns and a Kalashnikov-style assault rifle were found in the vehicle.
A police team inspecting Adam Djaziri's burnt car on the Champs-Elysees in Paris on Monday. The car had been loaded with two gas canisters, and two handguns and a Kalashnikov-style assault rifle were found in the vehicle.PHOTO: REUTERS

PARIS • Questions arose over how a man linked to radical Islam who rammed a car into a police van on the Champs-Elysees was able to hold a gun licence.

Adam Djaziri, a 31-year-old who had been on a security watchlist since 2015, was killed as his car loaded with two gas canisters smashed into the van on the famous avenue on Monday.

Two handguns and a Kalashnikov-style assault rifle were found in the car, while a weapons stash was found at the home of the assailant, who died. Witnesses saw the man being pulled from the car as thick yellow smoke poured out.

Djaziri's father, who has since been detained, said his son was a licensed gun-owner, and a source close to the probe said he owned nine weapons, including pistols and an assault rifle.

The attempted attack comes as France remains under a state of emergency after a wave of terror attacks that have left more than 230 people dead since 2015.

As the one-month-old government of President Emmanuel Macron prepares to unveil a tougher new anti-terrorism law, Prime Minister Edouard Philippe expressed dismay that Djaziri was able to have a gun permit despite being on a security watchlist.

"What I know at this stage is that the first weapons permit was given before this individual was flagged up," he said in an interview with BFM television and RMC radio, but he added that "no one can be satisfied - and certainly not me" that Djaziri had evidently still been able to possess dangerous weapons.

Djaziri's former wife, brother and sister-in-law were detained late on Monday after police questioned them at the family home in Plessis-Pate outside Paris. Djaziri's father was also taken into custody, a judicial source said.

Burn marks were found on Djaziri's body, but it was not yet clear how he died, according to a source close to the investigation. There were no other casualties from the attempted attack, and no group claimed responsibility.

Since the November 2015 Paris attacks that saw 130 people killed, and last year's Nice truck assault that claimed 86 lives, the country has seen a string of smaller attacks targeting security forces.

Djaziri died just a short distance on the Champs-Elysees from the spot where a gunman shot dead a police officer two months ago.

Earlier this month, an Algerian man attacked a policeman with a hammer outside Notre Dame cathedral, another key tourist draw, while troops shot dead a man at the capital's Orly airport in March after he attacked a soldier on patrol.

Few details have emerged of the new anti-terrorism law due to be unveiled today.

The current state of emergency is due to expire on July 15, but the government is seeking to extend it until Nov 1 - presumably after the new anti-terrorism law takes effect.

Interior Minister Gerard Collomb said on Monday that the Champs-Elysees incident "shows once again that the threat level remains extremely high in France".

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 21, 2017, with the headline 'Questions over how man on watchlist could own gun licence'. Print Edition | Subscribe